Album Review: Cola – ‘The Gloss’

Posted: by The Editor

When Montreal post-punk band Ought dissolved in 2021, they quickly assured fans they weren’t going anywhere. The same day their band dissolved, two members–frontman Tim Darcy and bassist Ben Stidworthy–announced the formation of Cola. Joined by U.S. Girls drummer Evan Cartwright, the trio gave Ought’s lyrics of vapid consumerism polished with taut instrumentals a facelift. Their aptly titled debut single “Blank Curtain” and album Deep in View ushered in a new era while giving old fans plenty to love.

With their second album, The Gloss, Cola continues exploring social commentary over a minimalist palette. However, their sound has evolved, blossoming into something lusher and fuller, at least by their standards that encourage doing more with less. The album’s bouncy “Pallor Tricks” and pensive “Reprise” are melodic and introspective testaments to this marginal yet unignorable development. Frontman Tim Darcy’s distinct voice, a unique blend of sprechgesang and jingle, continues to be a standout feature.

Cola has found their niche, but they are not content to stay within its boundaries. Opening track “Tracking Hallmarks” utilizes bright chord progressions and playful “that’s rights,” quickly laying the groundwork for an album more expansive. It evokes a lively pit that encourages even the most stubborn of arm-crossers to amicably bump into their neighbor. Darcy, Cartwright, and Stidworth loosen their ties and unbutton their blouses, encouraging listeners to follow suit. Cola experiments with more free-flowing sensibilities, incorporating tongue-in-cheek quips, disjointed guitars, and crisp drums that resist monotony, like on jittery “Down to Size.”

Still firmly rooted in post-punk sensibilities found on Wire’s Pink Flag and Gang of Four’s Entertainment!, the band flirts with other influences and isn’t afraid to diverge from the genre’s norms. “Albatross” bends towards fuzzy ‘90s alt-rock while remaining lucid and urgent. Darcy clings to each lingering syllable on lead single “Bitter Melon,” sliced by rich guitar and motorik drums.

Last year’s wistful standalone single “Keys Down If You Stay” appears towards the end of the album without feeling like a haphazard afterthought. Rather than lamenting the state of things, Darcy turns the focus inward to recount a mundane slice of life—playing cards and tossing one’s keys in the bowl. It is not a love song, but more of a song about love. It displays the band’s pining lyricism and jangly grooves in an approachable entry point for newer listeners stumbling upon Cola through an opaque Spotify algorithm.

The Gloss veers from pining and poetic to catchy and carefree. Upon repeat listens, the acerbic one-liners crystalize into thought-provoking affirmations. Cola both maximizes their toolkit and sharpens what they do best.

The Gloss is out now on Fire Talk Records. Follow Cola on Instagram.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Gillian Karon | @lethalrejection

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